Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Kansas’ educational attainment is at an all-time high, but it must continue to improve.

This post is from a report on school finance released by KASB as the Kansas Legislature works to develop a new school finance plan in compliance with the Kansas Supreme Court decision on adequate funding. Today: what the Kansas Constitution says about educational improvement and funding, how educational outcomes have improved, and why more is required.

A. The Kansas constitution mandates a system of public schools for educational improvement, and the state is responsible for the finance of that system.

Article Six of the Kansas Constitution, amended by the people in 1966, states in Section 1: “The legislature shall provide for intellectual, educational, vocational and scientific improvement by establishing and maintaining public schools, educational institutions and related activities which may be organized and changed in such manner as may be provided by law.” Section 6 directs that “The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.”

B. Overall Kansas educational attainment has been steadily improving for decades.

Long term education trends. The U.S. Census Bureau has tracked completion of high school and a four-year college degree by state since 1940. Kansas has improved educational attainment each decade, and further improved in the five years since the 2010 census.

Details for adults 25 and older since 1990. Kansas has decreased the percent of the population not completing high school by half (from 19.7 to 9.7 percent. The percentage of high school graduates with any college experience, including a technical certificate or associated degree, increased from 27.3 to 32.0 percent. The percent with a four-year degree increased from 14.4 to 20.4 percent, and with an advanced degree increased from 7.0 to 11.4 percent.

Details for Kansans age 18-24 since 2000. For the age group most recently in elementary and secondary schools, the percentage of young adults who have not completed high school declined from 21.7 to 12.5 percent. The percentage completing high school increased from 78.3 to 87.5 percent.  The percentage with any college less than a four year degree increased from 43.9 to 48.9 percent, and completing a four-year degree has increased 7.6 to 8.9 percent. (The most recent data is from 2015, so 18-24-year-olds includes students in classes graduating from about 2009 through 2015.)

C. Despite improved educational levels, more Kansans will need higher levels of education to meet workforce demands and provide individual economic security.

The Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce has estimated that about 99 percent of jobs created since the Great Recession require more than a high school diploma. Kansas is expected to be in the top ten states in the percentage of jobs that will require a postsecondary credential. These are the higher paying jobs with benefits that allow a chance for middle-class life. These are the goals of the State Board of Education’s Kansans Can vision and outcomes, based on input from thousands of Kansans in community and business leader meetings.

If Kansas is going to thrive, it will take more than tax policy alone. It will take a workforce with the educational skills to fill and succeed in the kinds of jobs being created. Fortunately, Kansas is well poised to succeed. Among adults age 25 and older, Kansas ranks 17th in high school completion, 15th in some postsecondary completion, including technical certificates and two-year degrees, and 17th in completion of four year degrees or higher. However, to add jobs and raise income levels, Kansas will continue to improve education levels. The evidence says that will require continuing to raise education funding.

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